Parasitology international

Involvement of Toxoplasma gondii in reproductive disorders in Swiss pig farms.

PMID 25456854


To determine the role of Toxoplasma gondii in reproductive failure, 108 of 113 sows that had aborted or delivered stillborn or weak piglets from 58 Swiss farms were serologically tested for specific antibodies against T. gondii tachyzoite antigens by ELISA. Additionally, formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissues from 123 foetuses or stillborn piglets derived from 25 seropositive and 27 seronegative sows were analyzed by real-time PCR for T. gondii DNA. Tissues from animals showing a positive reaction in real-time PCR were subsequently tested by immunohistochemistry for the presence of T. gondii antigens. Antibodies against T. gondii were detected in 24.1% (26 out of 108) of sows with reproductive failure, and 37.3% (22 of 58) of the 58 tested farms had seropositive sows. No significant differences in the prevalences were observed in relation to the housing system (exclusive indoor housing, indoor housing with outdoor yard and exclusive outdoor housing) neither at the individual nor at the farm levels. By real time-PCR, T. gondii DNA was detected in three placentas from one seropositive sow (abortion at 71 gestation days [gd]), and in brain tissues from one foetus (abortion at 76 gd), one stillborn (116 gd) and one mummy (112 gd) delivered by three further seropositive sows, but in no sample derived from seronegative dams. By immunohistochemical staining, the presence of T. gondii could be confirmed only in placenta samples. In one of the cases, a co-infection with porcine parvovirus (PPV) was detected. These results suggest vertical transmission of T. gondii and/or placental infection in at least 3.5% (4 of 113) of sows with reproductive disorders. Therefore, T. gondii should be more frequently included in the routine differential diagnosis of reproductive failure in sows. In addition, a proper disposal of placentas and abortion material beyond the reach of cats could help to interrupt the further dissemination of this parasite at the farm level.